Face Off: Should the HK government create a database of under-18s for effective policymaking?

Face Off: Should the HK government create a database of under-18s for effective policymaking?

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week …

Joshua Cheng, 17, HKUGA College

If the government wants to make effective policies, having a central database of Hong Kong’s under-18s is crucial.

To begin with, there are about one million under-18s in Hong Kong, which accounts for more than 10 per cent of the total population. Therefore it’s very important that the government is able to make precise policies that take care of their needs.

A database would give lawmakers accurate information on the real issues facing children and teens in the city. They would be able to clearly identify areas where there are problems, and find solutions to them.

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What’s more, some government agencies already have data related to under-18s, but this data isn’t shared among all departments.

Let’s say the Education Bureau wanted to carry out a survey on students’ psychological and physical health and how to improve it. They may not have a lot of the information they need – but the Department of Health might. However, without a clear and easy channel through which to share this information, it’s going to be a lot harder for the Education Bureau to access this data. With a central database, studies like this could be carried out much more quickly and efficiently.

Some people may be concerned about their privacy, but the truth is that the government already has access to a lot of our personal details. A database would simply help to store all this information in one place so it could be used methodically.

In conclusion, having a central database of information on under-18s would do more good than harm. It would facilitate the collaboration between different government agencies, and give them the tools with which to better serve young people.

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Snehaa Senthamilselvan Easwari, 18, The University of Melbourne

At first glance, the answer to this question would undoubtedly be “yes”, because having access to information about young people would greatly benefit many government departments and NGOs.

However, the authorisation of a central database that contains information about under-18s would be a breach of the right to privacy, which is a fundamental right of every child.

What’s more, the government should not have the right to interfere in personal family matters.

Other governments around the world have tried – and failed – to create such databases. In 2003, the British government created ContactPoint, a database that held information on all under-18s.

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However, there was widespread criticism of the platform on the grounds that it ignored family values and privacy.

If a similar database were to be established here in Hong Kong, it would clearly need to be sensitive to the differences that exist between families and their values, rather than having a uniform approach.

The government should also be required to get permission from the guardians of every young person before sharing their information, and give clear reasoning on how such information would allow Hong Kong to tackle issues that it is facing.

The government should work with organisations such as the Unicef Children’s Council to gain a better understanding of the needs of Hong Kong children.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda

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